Niihau and the US Military

SUBHEAD: Wonder why the restricting access to Niihau public waters? Here are the federal military contracts that mention Niihau.

By Lyn McNutt on 5 February 2014 in Island Breath -

Image above: Cover art for Ironhand's Niihau FSX scenery add-on used for military plane simulation environment. Could be used for drones, From (

As part of  the on-going political hijinks surrounding developing the Robinsons' Exclusive Zone (the REZ) on Niihau, I went on line and dug out public info for Niihau Ranch LLC Federal contracts based on their DUNS number.  These are collated and attached.

Since the file export only recognized numbers as text, I had to hand calculate the NET funding received, so they need to be re-checked.  I write grants, and have been a program and project manager.  I look at these contracts with $0, and others with up to half of the estimated costs being returned to the funder, and those strange balloon payments in December of several years, and I get very intrigued.  Accounting may work this way in DoD, but not in the world the rest of us inhabit. 

Niihau Ranch LLC seems to be returning a lot of money to the Federal Government.  Look at the dollar amounts and many are negative, roughly at 50% of costs.  Why?  When costing out a military proposal I believe that there are some standard rates for wages for laborers, maintenance, etc.  We have been told that Niihauans receive a maximum of $12 an hour.

Does this account for the discrepancy?  Also public records indicate (but I do not have these exact numbers) that 2/3 of the Niihauans are on EBT and Welfare and over half are on disability.  If it is true that $12 per hour is the going wage on Niihau, and government contracts, that could be used to increase income, are being used to continue to pay the Niihau wage, while at the same time the residents need federal assistance, this seems to me, in my opinion, to not be very supportive of the Niihau people.  So why should we give control of public waters around Niihau to Niihau Ranch LLC?

So, the bills introduced lately are the latest in a loooong string of manipulations (glad to detail over the phone) to get the REZ.  The Robinsons tried the (in chronological order sort of): fishing ban, monk seals, sanctuary, then Hawaii Civic Clubs (what's on now) and are now setting up the Aha Moku Council as a back up, with a dose of Sanctuary on the side for insurance.

Many of the attempts have at their core the request for a REZ of 2-3 miles off-shore.  To get advanced training with Black Ops and support drone testing, a two-mile offshore REZ is needed.  So, if you cannot get the public waters into your private domain using the "critters" (the Feds) then why not use the State, DLNR and the Sanctuary together, get the State to declare the REZ, and watch the income grow?

These activities involve land and water, and I do not think there has been any environmental assessment of the impact of the facilities and infrastructure on Niihau.  I don't think there have been county permits issued for this TMZ, but I may be wrong here.

As a scientist, I can tell you that DLNR and the Feds have completely missed the point here,  The ecosystems, culture and economies of Kauai and Niihau are co-joined.  If Kauai suffers, Niihau suffers.

To separate out Niihau using the Conservation Hostages on Niihau to secure a private REZ,  in the name of "preserving" the "culture" on Niihau as an isolated entity, only serves to further fragment the people, the economy and compromises the health of the people on Kauai and Niihau.  There are more Niihauans living on Kauai than Niihau.  There is a reason for this.  Once you get kicked off, no come back.  Estimates are 35-40 full time Niihau residents currently. 

This whole thing smells--- pilau.

This is the real reason for all this activity.  If you have a restricted zone extending into the ocean (public waters) then this increases the level of military support contracts available since Black Ops and Stryker force training require restricted access.

Please note that most of these are sole source contracts through the US Government Accounting Office.  The sole source justification is based on the private ownership, restricted access and availability of a cheap labor force.

Some of the contracts are for $1, and those it would seem involve construction or renovation of facilities or the land, and this $1 fee places Niihau Ranch outside of laws governing payment to workers based on rates associated with Federal contracts.


Some Background

By Lyn McNutt on 23 January 2014 in Island Breath -
(email to Dee Morikawa

Image above: Historic US military plane flying in simulation over Niihau. But it could be a drone simulation. From (

I have passed this on to the folks who organize the fishers.  What really troubles me is the unethical behavior (again) of our State and Federal "partners".  We were promised 'transparency' and we get done deals with pre-written legislation.  I also object strongly to the game being played of 'protecting' Native Hawaiian rights of the Niihau people, when the Robinsons have been actively courting expanded military activity on Niihau for YEARS, which hardly seems to be compatible with the idea of 'protecting' the Niihauans. 

To my mind, all this legislation is a major sham, with a real goal of political maneuvering for financial gain from private individuals to Limited Liability Corporations to the Federal government, all based on emotions and NO DATA.  The Kauai/Niihau connections exist on so many levels, and this shows clearly that Native Hawaiians and modern Hawaiians recognize that both sides of the channel make up one ecosystem; that's why there are also so many cultural and economic connections.

Fish caught in Niihau waters (proposed for restriction) have Kauai shrimp in their gut.  How do we stop the fish from coming over from Niihau and 'harvesting' the Kauai resources?  See how silly this all is if you look at it in a larger picture?  The fish and marine mammals and seabirds and local residents ALL know this is one ecosystem and we depend on each other.  The real ecosystem does not approve of these legislative shenanigans.

You cannot take out parts of this and then "make them well".  The REAL problem is on the Kauai side.  I will say that again, the REAL problem is on the Kauai side.  If the Kauai ecosystem is weakened, including the connections to the land and fresh water, and it fails, then Niihau will fail, not matter how much public waters you give to Niihau Ranch, LLC., nor how many restrictions and regulations you put in place.  Kauai is the "source" and Niihau is "the Incubator" and both share in the abundance, and should be the caretakers.  BOTH.

To protect these resources requires a larger view of the ENTIRE situation, and collecting data NOW to make rational decisions.  This legislative assault of creating Bills to 'supporting' Hawaiian peoples' cultural needs, and legislating scientific restrictions without any scientific basis in fact is creating dissent and fostering resentment on the West side of Kauai with the PURPOSE (this is the purpose) of to dividing the people and giving away public assets to a private landowner.

It should also be looked at critically by the governor, as this type of environmental politics at the expense of the Stakeholder is not at all the face to present to the local voters before an election.  Think about it a little.

All this conniving and conspiring needs to stop now. Who gave them the power to end local economies with the stroke of a pen without any real data and with no involvement at the local level?  It is your kuleana to protect us from this type of political nonsense. 

The assault tactic taken by our state government in partnership with NOAA Sanctuary Division is doomed scientifically, and socially before it starts: no buy-in, no consultation, no data, no agreements with the users, no stakeholder conversations, no consideration for real world relationships, just legislation to hide the glaring fact that DLNR has not done its job for years and THEY are really the root cause of this problem--not the fishers, not the local folks.  If you have made a mistake then correct it in a pono fashion.  Don't at like it is somebody else's fault.  Grow up and take some responsibility, and get on with fixing the error the right way.

But all this backroom planning and negotiation will get what they really want: 
  • The precedent that they can even do this based on NO DATA and no local hearings.
  • The precedent that they can legislate away control of public resources and give away rights to these waters to private landholders with no public hearings.
  • Job security at the Federal level in particular Access to potentially lucrative military contracts to pay land taxes through promoting uses of the new legislatively restricted zones.
  • The really bad precedent of giving up at the State level in these areas while ceding control to the Federal government and/or corporations because they have 'money' or 'resources' (once you give it away, you will NOT get it back until they have used it up, like Ko'olahawe).
  • Dividing and conquering all the Native Hawaiians and local users until all of Hawaii is in the National Sanctuary System and becomes part of the International Marine Protected Area network in the Pacific.   We will become what they want, an manageable aquarium for tourists, with little or no local subsistence use, and sustainability based on tourism needs.
The end result a cute, NGO-friendly, totally unrealistic, happy sanctuary with souvenirs, while true subsistence use and sustainability to support life in Hawaii is gone, along with the local fishing economy.

 Tell it like it is Dee, please!  We need you Obi-wan Kanobi, you are our last hope!  The rebel alliance awaits your command.


Anonymous said...

So much bad talk about the Robinsons, but take a look at 'their' island, yes, they own it. What do you see? Strip malls, condominiums, high rise condominium complexes, highways, even roads? The picture we see above shows a pristine undeveloped island. Why is that? They could have developed, right? Sure, they could have... but they didn't. Because they are conservationists. Kauai is the 'source', Niihau is the 'incubator'. I doubt it. Niihau, is most certainly a more productive and healthy ecosystem. They're are more fish there, undeniably. That's why all the fisherman go there!

How do Kauai fisherman feel about Oahu fisherman coming to Kauai coastal waters en masse? How do Hawaii fisherman feel about Japanese long-liners overfishing the pelagics, ahi, swordfish, mahimahi, etc.? You can be sure that the people of Niihau are much more concerned that the fish won't be there. EBT food stamps or not, public payroll or not, these people depend on productive ecosystems far, far more than anyone on Kauai.

The articles raise interesting points regarding military contracts. I had not heard about that before. That is something to think about. However, I think the 'native rights' argument is solid. Hopefully it's not just a front for generating revenue through military contracts. There are plenty of easy ways to make money from Niihau, and the Robinsons have opted out of easy money in the hopes of preserving and perpetuating the environment.

Anonymous said...

There was a video circulating showing one of the Robinson brothers addressing a businessman's luncheon on Oahu. He said the military had solicited his cooperation with offshore training exercises. He said they told him the distance from Niihau to Kauai is the same as the distance across the Straight of Hormuz, separating Iran from Oman. Tankers carrying Iran's oil must traverse the Straight of Hormuz to get to the Arabian Sea and the Pacific.
In the 2/3/14 TGI article headlined "war games" about recently completed naval exercises; "Exercises designed with threats that could be encountered transiting straights in hostile waters."

Juan Wilson said...

Aloha "First Anonymous",

I take exception to your characterization of the environment of Niihau as pristine undeveloped land. For one the island has been stripped of much of its grasses and consequently topsoil by generations of ranching.

Moreover, the hunting on Niihau is an activity that threatens the uplands. This is because pigs and goats strip tree saplings of the hillsides faster than hunters kill them (otherwise there would be nothing to hunt).

Moreover, agricultural activity on leased Robinson land on Kauai - particularly ranching, sugarcane and now GMO crops have been on lowland forest areas that contributed historically to the formation on the westside of rain clouds that fed water from Kauai to Niihau.

The more recent deals the Robinson's have been economically forced to make with the military do not bode well for the natural environment of Niihau either.

As far as my view of Keith Robinson, from my experience through the AQha Kiole Advisory Committee and Aha Moku Council is the he is a schizoid meglomaniac with delusions.

The best I can say is that the Robinson's have kept suburban sprawl off "their" land, and kept the public from "over running" the natural landscape.

I also am sympathetic with those that want to limit commercial fishing with current technology. So for example, I think the Alaskan native people should be able to harvest all the whales they can hunt down paddling sealskin kayaks and employing preindustrial hand held harpoons.

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